The Recycling Solution

Communities across the country are supporting efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle plastic bags as the tried-and-true approach to responsible handling. These simple, common-sense steps can help reduce waste, prevent litter and keep our environment clean. And they're working!

Educating and encouraging consumers to make environmentally-conscious decisions about plastic bags is a practical alternative to imposing taxes during a recession, or banning plastic bags altogether. » Learn More

When it comes to preventing litter and making the most of our resources, regular recycling is an important part of the solution. Multi use plastic shopping bags are fully recyclable, and can be brought back to a number of major grocery and retail chains across the United States. Many communities have found success educating consumers about bag recycling.

Success Stories

 “A Bag’s Life”—A voluntary public education program to increase plastic bag recycling and reuse in the state of Florida. Partners in the effort include the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Recycling Partnership, the Florida Retail Association, PBA/ACC and other major grocery and retailers including Walmart and Publix.

 “Bag Your Bags. Bring ‘Em Back”—King County (WA) Solid Waste Division is sponsoring this program to enhance plastic bag recycling in partnership with several major grocers in the county’s 37 cities (also promoting recycling of paper bags and use of reusable bags).

 “Bring It Back Philly”—A public education campaign to increase awareness of the recyclability of plastic bags and locations for recycling bags and wraps. Spearheaded by a Philadelphia council member, this program is supported by Keep Philadelphia Beautiful, the PA Food Merchants, Penn Jersey Paper, PBA/ACC, Goodwill Industries and Trex.

 “Got Your Bags”—An effort by Keep California Beautiful which has launched pilot programs in major cities in state to promote recycling of plastic bags and use of reusable bags. PBA is co-sponsoring this program with local grocers and the state waste authority.

 Lake County, Illinois—A voluntary at-store pilot program is underway to increase plastic bag and film recycling. This program is co-sponsored by local retailers, legislators, recyclers and PBA/ACC.

 It’s In the Bag—A plastic bag and product wrap recycling program of Minnesota Waste Wise. It provides consumers the opportunity to recycle unwanted plastic bags at participating retail locations. The program also provides employment for adults with disabilities, who collect and sort the plastic material in It's in the Bag participating communities.

 Iowa’s Build with Bags—A bag recycling program to convert plastic shopping bags into recycled products for parks and schools. It is sponsored by the state grocers assn., waste authority, Keep Iowa Beautiful and Dept. of Natural Resources. A unique component of this program is that it provides grants to schools and parks to purchase recycle plastic playground equipment and benches.

 Bag Central Station created convenient, efficient and effective bag recycling opportunities in Arizona. Since its inception in 2007, there are now 13 Arizona retailers hosting Bag Central Station in 6 cities.

What You Can Do:

There are simple steps we all can take to reduce waste and make sure plastic bags don't end up as litter.

Reduce: Shoppers can always decline a bag at checkout (is a bag really necessary for carrying that pack of gum?).

Reuse: More than 90 percent of consumers reuse their plastic grocery bags at home for purposes ranging from waste basket liners to lunch bags to pet clean up. What new ways can you think of to reuse your plastic bags?

Recycle: Next time you head to your local grocer or retailer, remember to return those shopping bags, dry-cleaning bags, bread bags, wraps from paper towels, bathroom tissue, napkins, diapers even the plastic bag that delivered the newspaper! Across the country, many grocers and retailers accept plastic bags and wraps for recycling. » Learn More

Recycling plastic bags and wraps is important because this valuable material can be made into dozens of useful new products such as low-maintenance fencing and decking, building and construction products, shopping carts, and of course, new bags!

Here Are Some Tips to Help You Recycle More of Your Bags:

Many grocers and retailers now offer collection programs that allow shoppers to return their used plastic bags and product wraps to be recycled. In most stores, plastic bag recycling bins are located at the front entrance or near checkout areas. Check with your grocer and other area retailers to see where bags are recycled in your community or visit for a list of participating stores in your state.

Did You Know? A plastic bag or product wrap (see list below) is fully recyclable. But these products require a different type of infrastructure than plastic bottles and containers. That's why most communities collect bags and bottles separately. Plastic bottles and containers are often collected curbside, while major grocery chains collect used plastic bags and wraps that their customers bring back to the store. Bins are usually located at the front of the store or near checkout areas.

Tip: Store your plastic bags and product wraps in a recyclable plastic bag until you're ready to bring them back to the store Recycle the Following Wherever Plastic Bags Are Collected:

  • All clean plastic bags labeled #2 (HDPE) or #4 (LLDPE)
  • Grocery bags
  • Retail bags (remove hard plastic or string handles)
  • Plastic newspaper bags
  • Dry cleaning bags (remove paper and hangers)
  • Bread bags (with crumbs shaken out)
  • Sealable food storage bags (with hard parts removed)
  • Bags from boxes of cereal and crackers (with crumbs shaken out)
  • Plastic wraps from products such as paper towels, bathroom paper, napkins, diapers, and cases of soft drinks

Make sure bags are clean and empty. Do not include used plastic food wrap, bags with food residue, or material that has been painted or glued, as other substances can contaminate the recycled material.

•    ACC, SPI Align and Expand Efforts to Defend Plastic Bags and Increase Plastic Film Recycling [12/15/2011]

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